Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The new FARC: Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria de Colombia (Aug. 16, 2017)

Colombia's demobilized FARC handed over the last of their weapons to U.N. monitors yesterday. The U.N. mission head Jean Arnault said a total of 17 containers of arms had been handed over over the past year, reports the BBC. They will be smelted down and made into three monuments to be installed in Bogotá, Havana and New York. 

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared the conflict officially over and called it "a historic day for the country" at a ceremony to mark the occasion in Fonseca, on the eastern border with Venezuela, reports Deutsche Welle.

With the completion of the FARC disarmament, the concentration zones become centers where the former combatants are to receive job training and other assistance to ease their return to civilian life, explains EFE.

The former Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia handed over 8,112 weapons to monitors, ending 53 years of armed insurgency. However, there are still numerous weapons caches around the country that the U.N. has been unable to secure, notes InSight Crime. 

In September the FARC will launch a political movement dubbed the Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria de Colombia -- a name that preserves the recognized acronym, reports Semana. The guerrillas were also supposed to hand over a definitive list of patrimony to be used for reparations to victims.

The example of verified disarmament has been an international example, but now begins a period of short-term uncertainty for the former guerrilla fighters, according to la Silla Vacía

Though the gathering of FARC members in concentration zones was carried out relatively well, the process now gives fodder both to the Uribista opposition and to the FARC force itself. The spots seem likely to become permanent FARC enclaves, raising the specter of independent zones where the former guerrillas have territorial and political control. The still incomplete villages also give the FARC arguments about the unfulfilled government promises, notes la Silla Vacía. As of yesterday, the U.N. monitoring and verification of these concentration zones has ended, and Colombian security forces assume responsibility for these areas. The infrastructure also becomes public space, that can be used by local citizens as well as former fighters. 

The public policy focus is now on reincorporating former fighters into society, reports Semana separately. Key issues include education -- most of the demobilized fighters have only a primary level education -- and community support for fighters without family ties. 

The possibility for former fighters to make a living is a key issue say experts."... The former FARC rebels are more vulnerable than ever. It is largely up to the government to provide what they most need to survive and integrate into civilian life and society in order to dissuade them from falling back into crime," argues InSight Crime

Just this past weekend an alleged FARC leader was assassinated just outside of a camp, and scores of social leaders have been killed so far this year, notes InSight. (See Monday's briefs for an Americas Quarterly piece by Robert Muggah and Katherine Aguirre on how peace has pushed up homicides and criminal gang activity in certain areas of Colombia.)

The newly created Unidad Nacional de Protección (UNP) is working on schemes to train former guerrilla's to protect FARC leaders considered under threat, reports El Espectador.

In the meantime the FARC is making efforts to become more relatable and enjoy the fruits of peace, including potentially launching a futból team, La Paz Fútbol Club reports la Semana.

News Briefs
  • Several armed Venezuelan soldiers were caught begging for food in neighboring Guyana, a sign of the country's growing hunger problem, reports the Miami Herald. Though shortages have been occurring for a long time, the military has had privileged access to scarce basics. Lately there have been reports of soldiers in outposts going hungry though, according to the Herald. 
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is cutting off a pathway allowing Central American youths who have been denied refugee status to temporarily live in the U.S., reports the New York Times. The parole program was established by the Obama administration in 2014 as a way of dealing with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America arriving at the U.S. border. "Parole will only be issued on a case-by-case basis and only where the applicant demonstrates an urgent humanitarian or a significant public benefit reason for parole and that applicant merits a favorable exercise of discretion," said the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Deportations of undocumented migrants under the Trump administration have actually slowed down compared to his predecessors tenure, reports Politico. This doesn't necessarily reflect the administration's priorities, as deportations lag  behind arrest rates or removal orders -- which have apparently increased greatly. Instead, it is due to a backlog of cases in immigration courts, and Trump's decision to eliminate prioritizing apprehension of migrants with criminal records.
  • Recreational sales of marijuana in Uruguayan pharmacies, the recently implemented final stage in the country's landmark cannabis legalization, is under threat from U.S. banking regulations prohibiting national banks from taking money coming from legal cannabis enterprises, reports El Observador. Several banks have already closed down the accounts of businesses working with cannabis. Several pharmacies have said they would desist from selling rather than be shut out from the banking system.
  • Permitting drug addicts to consume in shelters, or even provide them with coca paste, were among the policy proposals aired by Bogota's Security Secretary Daniel Mejía in a recent forum. He proposed harm reduction policies for users of coca paste, known locally as bazuco, and said that providing users with high quality substances was part of the path to helping them, reports El Espectador.
  • Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS's CEO, Wesley Batista, may cling to his post, even after admitting to participating in a multimillion-dollar bribe scheme, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A protester who disappeared nearly two weeks ago in Argentina was last seen in the midst of a violent police crackdown against an indigenous group, reports Página 12. (See last Friday's briefs on Santiago Maldonado.)
  • Ecuadorean authorities have detained the crew of a Chinese fishing boat suspected to have caught endangered sharks in the Galapagos Islands, reports the BBC.


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